December 17, 2014 - Seattle Art Museum - Live On: Mr.’s Japanese Neo-Pop
December 17, 2014

Live On: Mr.’s Japanese Neo-Pop

Mr. (born Masakatsu Iwamoto), Starry Night Lullaby, 2013. Acrylic on canvas, 48 × 48 inches. Courtesy of Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong. © 2013 Mr./Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd.. All rights reserved.

Live On: Mr.’s Japanese Neo-Pop
Through April 5, 2015

SAM’s Asian Art Museum
Volunteer Park
1400 East Prospect Street 
Seattle, WA 98112

T +1 206 654 3100
info [​at​]

Live On: Mr.’s Japanese Neo-Pop is the first solo museum exhibition in the US for Mr., a protégé of Takashi Murakami, internationally acclaimed icon of Japanese Pop art. He borrowed the name “Mr.” from “Mister Giants” (Shigeo Nagashima), the superstar cleanup hitter of the postwar Yomiuri Giants baseball team. While Mr.’s art often appears playful at first—even cheerful—its veneer of bright imagery expresses darker themes and addresses anxiety. Live On is organized by the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) and on view at SAM’s Asian Art Museum through April 5, 2015.

Having grown up during Japan’s postwar “economic miracle” period, Mr. often exercises his art as a weapon against social expectations, as analyzed by Xiaojin Wu, Seattle Art Museum’s Curator of Japanese and Korean Art. At the beginning of Mr.’s career, he collected trash to create his work, following examples set by artists such as Robert Rauschenberg in his assemblage works, Pop Art, or the Italian avante-garde movement Arte Povera. As his art developed, Mr. began to focus on Japan’s otaku (geek) subculture of manga and anime. 

As a member of the otaku subculture, his work speaks to its lifestyle which is marked by an obsessive interest in anime and manga that can lead to social isolation. He says, “I’ve had one eye on anime since the day I was born.”

The devastating disaster of the March 11, 2011 tsunami in Japan and the nuclear accident afterwards were both a shock and inspiration for Mr. In response, he composed a massive installation made of hundreds of everyday objects. This piece, titled Give me Your Wings – Think Different is the central work in this exhibition. It serves as both a reminder of the debris that blanketed the Tohoku area in the aftermath of the tsunami and earthquake and an embodiment of the post-disaster fear and frustration of the Japanese people in the aftermath of these catastrophic events. 

Live On also includes a group of Mr.’s new works that take kawaii (cute) Japanese pop art to a new dimension known as moe (which literally means budding). Through fictional, adorable characters, moe speaks to a longing for youth, or youthful energy. It grew out of Japanese youth subculture, and its rebellion against authority and political engagement in favor of fantasy and virtual experience. 

The exhibition is organized by the Seattle Art Museum in collaboration with Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd., Galerie Perrotin, and Lehmann Maupin Gallery. Additional support is provided by contributors to the SAM Fund.

Live On: Mr.’s Japanese Neo-Pop at the Seattle Art Museum
Seattle Art Museum
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